Photo credit: Activate Allen County

Idaho Smart Growth has conducted several bicycle and pedestrian count trainings lately, so why are counts important? The more data we gather on how bicyclists and pedestrians actually use roads and sidewalks, the more we can improve the safety for everyone.

Data can be shared with local planning organizations to help inform funding decisions and prioritize improvements. Ready to coordinate a count in your area? Below are some resources, but we strongly encourage you to reach out for additional training! Questions always arise as we train volunteers, so in order to ensure data integrity, training is key! Reach out to Idaho Smart Growth to schedule a training.

Step #1 – Understand your “why”

Before determining the best location and time of day to conduct your count, it’s important to understand what type of data you are trying to collect. For example, are you looking to understand the route school children use to get home? Then your time of day will be at the end of the school day and your location will likely be close to the school.

Are you hoping to understand evening commuter patterns? Then counting should take place at the end of the work day near a job center.

Once you understand the “why” of the data you are trying to gather and who might use that data, you can more clearly determine the “how” and “where.”

Step #2 – What to count

Depending on the type of information you are hoping to gather, you can likely group people into two different modes. The forms we use have two mode categories: bicycles and pedestrians.

  • Bicycle
    • Total number of people on the bike
    • Include people being pulled by bike (children, trail-a-bikes, etc.)
  • Pedestrians
    • People walking
    • People in wheelchairs
    • Children in strollers
    • People using other assistive devices (scooters, etc.)
    • Skateboards
    • Rollerblades
    • Other small wheeled devices (e.g. skis)

Always count the number of people NOT the mechanism of transportation.

Pop Quiz!

How many bicycles would you count if this rode passed you?

Although it’s one “bike,” for counts, we count the people, so this would count as 4 bicycles!

How about this one? How would you count this?

Don’t be fooled by the disguise! This would count as 2 bicycles.
Although it’s hard to tell from this angle, but that doesn’t look like a bike, so 2 pedestrians.

Step #3 – How to count

Linked below are example count sheets we use in our trainings. There are separate spaces for bicycles and pedestrians, and the sheet is broken into four sections of 15 minutes each.

Make sure your count volunteers remember to set a timer!

Depending on the busyness of the count location, it may be hard to remember to shift to the new time block. A timer will make sure the counts stay in the correct time block.

Each pedestrian and bicycle will only be counted once so it’s important follow each throughout the entire intersection. For example, if a pedestrian starts by crossing the street in front of you, do they continue going straight down the roadway or do they cross the intersection again (making a turning movement)? Once they have completely left the intersection you can record the movement.

Pop Quiz!

How do you record this turning action?

1 bicycle with a right turning movement, so a hash mark in C3.

Step #4 – Day of preparation

Now that you have your “why” and are prepared with your “how” and “what,” don’t forget the most basic of preparation items.

  • Count forms
  • Clipboard
  • Writing utensil
  • Vest*
  • Water bottle
  • Chair
  • Sunscreen
  • Raincoat
  • Snack
  • Stopwatch

*A little note on the vest- count volunteers will likely get some funny looks as they are counting. In general, people are more at ease if they see someone with a clipboard counting if that person is wearing a safety vest. Idaho Smart Growth has some on hand to lend if you need!

Remind count volunteers to use the restroom before arriving at their locations, and to arrive 15 minutes before they plan to start counting. This allows time to find the most optimal location to observe from and to be prepared when the first hour begins.

Training is key!

No matter how many volunteers we train, there are always LOTS of questions. Training is key to success, and data integrity. When volunteers get outside and start using the forms, the complexity surfaces. In order to get the best data, we strongly encourage on-site training. Idaho Smart Growth is available to train volunteers or to “train the trainer.” Reach out to schedule a training.